Ah, if only we were back in the good old days -- like, three years ago -- when it wasn't until March that I started hearing from fans whose coach just got dumped. Alas, I guess that is officially a bygone era.
And so, as I dip into this week's mailbag, let me begin with a couple of disgruntled Windy City natives:
First of all, I disagree with Matt's assessment of Wainwright's coaching abilities. This is still the same guy who went to the NCAA tournament three times in a five-year span at UNC-Wilmington and Richmond. That is not easy to do. I will, however, allow that Wainwright had enough time to show he could win at DePaul, but we all know the reason he didn't: His players weren't good enough. Which, of course, is his fault.
Second, I don't care how bad a coach is. Unless he is abusive to his players or causing some sort of ancillary problem (as apparently was the case at Dartmouth), there is no reason -- none -- to fire him on Jan. 11. The fact is, the school wanted to get rid of Wainwright at the end of last season but couldn't come up with the money to buy him out -- which by today's standards was not a lot. At season's end, athletic director
As for where DePaul goes from here, that terrific
So you can scratch all the big names off your list if you're hunting for a successor to Wainwright. It goes without saying that the next coach will have to have strong ties to Chicago, because without that there is not much reason why Chicago kids would want to play for DePaul. That's why I agree with many of the experts who have said that the front-runner for the job will be Southern Illinois coach
Other possibilities being thrown out there are Oregon State's
As for the rest of the mailbag, I lead with what may be the most prescient e-mail I've ever received. It came in last week from a Tennessee fan
John, my friend, you are Kreskin. I will have to check in with you before I write my next Pickoff column. Oh, and you got any stock tips?
Better still, it looks like the situation will improve more quickly than either of us anticipated.
Pearl has handled this whole situation like the stand-up guy he is. You should know he agreed to come on the show on Saturday, even before the big upset.
I don't need stats to tell me this Missouri team is good. That's why I picked them to beat Kansas State at home, which, of course, they did. In some ways I was even more impressed by their five-point win at Texas Tech on Wednesday night. Not only did that come on the road, but it also came after a big, emotional win. The Tigers should have been primed for a letdown, but they fought through it. That tells you something.
This team is not as deep as last year's Elite Eight squad, but it is a better defensive team despite not having a lot of size inside. Mizzou is ranked sixth in the country in defensive efficiency (compared to 13th last year, per kenpom.com) and 38th offensively (down from 8th). I also worry about the team's lack of a true offensive point guard; even while beating K-State the Tigers turned it over 20 times and had just 9 assists on 20 made baskets. But I have always believed that coach
You'll recall that I tried to prod Illinois fans into sending me some electronic disdain by suggesting they had become apathetic after I left them out of my stock report. Instead, I only got emphatic expressions of ... apathy.
The good news is the Illini took care of business during the soft part of their schedule and are undefeated in the Big Ten. Now they have to play at Michigan State followed by Purdue at home. I believe that Illinois will be an NCAA tournament team, but I agree with Bernie, Ray and the rest of Illini Nation that right now they're nothing to get excited about.
Don't mean to be rude, Larry, but it's not exactly a landmark achievement for a team to be tougher than your Gators. Not only does this Florida team lack toughness, but it is also one of the worst-shooting teams
First of all, Jim, let me give you my dead-solid guarantee that
First of all, I think Zach is overrating a bit where Kelly stood in the recruiting world upon entering Duke. Yes, Rivals.com ranked him 20th in the Class of 2009, but most people I talked to believed that 6-foot-10 center
Kelly's main problem right now is that his skill set is too similar to
Finally, I got a bunch of e-mails questioning my weekly AP ballot. Serves me right for giving y'all a sneak peek:
Sorry, but I did not give Miami much consideration this week because they don't have a single quality win -- and they still don't after losing by 15 at Virginia Tech on Wednesday. The Canes' best win was over full-strength South Carolina on a neutral court and at home against Minnesota and Wake Forest, neither of which I ranked as well. Nor do I lightly dismiss that loss at Boston College, which after all has lost this season to Saint Joseph's, Harvard, Rhode Island and Maine. Having blown their chance in Blacksburg, Miami will not have a chance to notch a love-worthy win until February, when they play in succession at Wake, at Florida State, home vs. Georgia Tech, at Clemson and home vs. Duke.
You have to remember that my stock report is not a reflection of how good I think a team is, but rather where I think they're headed relative to where they were when I wrote it. UConn has vindicated my Sell rating by blowing a 19-point lead at Georgetown and falling at home to Pittsburgh. So I'm sure my fellow voters and I will be dropping the Huskies a few spots next week. Still, to drop a team you have to find others who deserved to be moved ahead of them, and at this stage of the season that is getting harder to do.
Chad makes some good points, but I won't make a correction -- and not just because of Purdue's loss to Ohio State on Tuesday night. These two teams were basically a coin flip for me, but I went with Nova because I felt like they had three really good wins (at Marquette, neutral court vs. Ole Miss and Dayton), while Purdue had two (Tennessee neutral and West Virginia at home). Obviously I wasn't the only one who felt that way because Villanova ended up being ranked 4th while Purdue was 6th. Now that Villanova is back to full strength in the frontcourt, I think they're going to stay in the top five for a while.
I got a couple of e-mails pointing this out this apparent discrepancy. Unfortunately, none of them pointed out that I also voted Wisconsin behind Purdue (5) and Duke (6), whom the Badgers also beat this season. As you can tell by now, I'm a big home-away guy, and Michigan State's win over Wisconsin was in East Lansing, so to me they only get partial credit. Same goes for the Badgers' two big wins in Madison. Furthermore, Michigan State's loss to Florida in neutral-court Atlantic City is looking worse over time, and while Wisconsin's loss to Green Bay was pretty bad, at least it came on the road.
But you know what? I just spent more time thinking about where to rank those two in answering this e-mail than I did while assembling my ballot. I spend all week watching games, talking on the phone and reading everything I can about college hoops. When I get to putting together the ballot Sunday night, I try not to think too much and in the end I go with my gut. This ain't football, you know, and thank goodness for that.